Curriculum focused on cognitive skills may improve child behaviour
Children who were taught a curriculum that focused on self-control and awareness of their own and others’ emotions were found to exhibit greater social competence and fewer behavioral and emotional problems. According to a recent study in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, when teachers taught a particular curriculum to students for 20-30 minutes-per-day, three times-per-week over a six-month period, lower rates of aggression and anxiety/sadness were seen when evaluated a year later compared to children randomized to normal classroom procedures.
“Several complex cognitive processes, such as the ability to cope in stressful situations, are related to the development of the prefrontal areas of the brain starting in the preschool years,” says study author Mark Greenberg. “We know that deficiencies in the function of these lobes are linked to problems like aggression, depression and attention disorders.” Therefore, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum, which stimulates cognitive and emotional skills, enhances the child’s ability to cope with stress and make good choices.
Greenberg offers an example of a simple PATHS skill that helps children understand and identify feelings in others. “Children use ‘feeling faces’ cards throughout the day to indicate clearly to others what emotions they are experiencing,” says Greenberg. “By labeling the emotions clearly, children learn to recognize them in themselves and others, which will aid them in managing those emotions.”
The main advantage of this curriculum is its preventive nature. Rather than focusing on treating negative behaviors after they have become stable and disruptive, PATHS provides children with coping strategies to prevent the development of behavioral and emotional difficulties.
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